Something very few people know is that writing the Isaiah Cadre series is, in part, a way for me to work through much of what I’ve experienced in my own life. There are really a lot of reasons I’m writing, and that’s not anywhere near being the main one, but it’s one of them.
The three main reasons for this series are:
- To bring theological concepts to life. To give a practical example of some ways the Christian life can be lived effectively (not by any means exhaustive) … and also to illustrate some ways that we often live the Christian life which aren’t effective. To inspire people to want to know God better, to want to get into the Word, to want to genuinely live out their faith.
- To give a voice to those who are suffering. I believe that the reason God allowed me to experience many of the really awful things I’ve experienced is because I’m articulate. I can help those who aren’t suffering understand why and how others are hurting. I can help you understand why on earth a seemingly intelligent woman gets into an abusive relationship … and stays. I write for those who are marginalized so they know that there is someone else who understands. And I write for those who care about the marginalized and want to reach them.
- I’m a prophet-type. (Not the office of prophet, just the personality and gifts.) The combination of gifts, experiences, and personality God gave me leads me to notice what needs to be fixed … and my hope and prayer is to always offer alongside that a possible solution — or at the very least, ask questions which can lead others to find a solution where I don’t have any ideas. I hope that I’m never seen as complaining, but rather challenging. I don’t want to write for people who like things the way they are, but rather those who want things to be better. Because I think, we can always do better. I love to strive to make things better … and I write for those who feel the same way. I see the glass as half full … but I want it overflowing.
Aside from those reasons, it’s also a way for me to work through things. What if I had gone to seminary rather than getting married? How would my life have been different? What if I hadn’t stayed in my marriage for 20 years? Would my children have been better off? (After all, I certainly didn’t get any credit from anyone for sticking with it and trying to keep my vows all those years. I may as well have left right away.) What if I had followed this dream or that? What if I had made a different decision? Would it have been better? Or could it have been worse? What is the evidence I see of God’s hand on my life even when my decisions were bad? What’s the evidence I see of Him guiding me and using the bad situations for good? What is the hope I can offer my readers who are in the same types of situations?
One of the things I’ve learned as I’ve written — and I had a sense of this before I started — is that, as Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” We think that we are the only ones who have experienced a particular thing. This is part of the enemy’s strategy to isolate us. If he can isolate us, then we can’t get help. We feel somehow ashamed of what we have experienced, as if we ourselves made it happen (and in some cases, we have, but that still doesn’t mean it was okay) or as if we must be making it up. People who have never really suffered often believe that we’re exaggerating or that it’s all in our heads. They shut us down when we need to to talk … and here’s the thing: They aren’t the person to talk to, for whatever reason (and we don’t need to condemn them), but that doesn’t mean you should shut down. You do need to talk. You do need help. But find a safe, receptive person to talk to.
I hope that my stories are not just a way for me to work through things, but I hope that they are a way for others to work through what they’ve been through. I hope that they can be a starting point for conversations. For those who are suffering, I hope that they can use my stories to help others understand what they are going through or have gone through and are still trying to heal from — because the healing process is neither easy nor instant. For those who are puzzled by someone else’s suffering, but are concerned, I hope that my stories help you to understand what’s going on. It may not be exactly what I’m expressing, but there are common threads. I’m amazed at how many women ask me how I found out about their life and used it for my story — when I had never met or heard of them. It’s almost creepy … and yet comforting … how similar our lives are, isn’t it?
I suppose I need to make a disclaimer here. I’m very careful not to make these stories autobiographical. While much of what’s in these books are based on my own experiences, you cannot look at them and know my life. The main reason for this is that while it’s okay for me to hang out my own dirty laundry, I don’t think it’s okay for me to hang out anyone else’s — even those who have done me horrible damage. It’s not my place to convict them, shame them, guilt them, expose them. As one pastor says, “I’m not the Holy Spirit, Jr.” If and when God convicts them, it’s up to them whether they ever want to find a safe place to come clean … just as it’s up to me how public I want to be about my own faults and wrong-doings, and it’s up to you how public you want to be about your own dirty laundry. Right?
And on top of that … although others contributed to my suffering, what’s really important is my personal responsibility. What wrong beliefs did I have to begin with which led me to believe I was worthless and accept all this garbage? How did I come to have those wrong beliefs about myself and about God? How do I need to go back and change those beliefs so that they align with God’s Word … and so I don’t repeat the same mistakes? (Which is why it’s important to figure those wrong beliefs out.) And how can I help others with the same erroneous beliefs? How did I react to the situation? How did I respond? How did it help me grow closer to God? How did it form me and how did it inform me? What did I take away from it? To be honest … those questions are on-going. As I write, I’m finding new take-aways. I’m learning new lessons. I’m discovering that my experiences may have informed me incorrectly and I’m having to make adjustments to how I see God, myself, and the world around me. I’m discovering that the “if onlies” might not have worked out as well as I thought they would have. I hope that, as I explore those things in my stories, you are able to explore your “what if’s”, your paradigm, your take-aways, and your responses. I hope most of all, that you’re able to see the thread of God’s intention, love, and grace in your life.
In many ways, I’m just taking my cue from the Bible. The stories in the Bible are true stories (other than the parables) of things real people experienced … and yet, we’re all able to relate to them and learn from them. They are common experiences with life lessons we need to hear. Reading about King David finding forgiveness after committing adultery and murder reassures us that God can use us in mighty ways no matter how badly we’ve blown it. Hearing about Peter denying Christ and then becoming one of the primary leaders in the Church shows us that God’s plan is always to restore us, not to leave us drowning in our guilt. Seeing Jesus struggle to the point of sweating blood when faced with the cross, then setting His eyes on the joy of its result allows us to focus, not on the pain of our experience, but the purpose and profit that will benefit so many.
I actually started writing these novels over a decade ago. I wrote one chapter (which will eventually be included), but it was still too close to the time of my experience and I couldn’t go further. I wrote that chapter and then had nightmares and panic attacks. It wasn’t time.
There’s a certain amount of healing that takes place … and yet, in order to write effectively, I still have to be able to feel the pain, you know?
So the point of this post. Remembering. I think it’s important for us to be able to remember our pain … but not dwell in it. Why is this?
I think we can find the answer in the Passover. Two of the themes in the Jewish celebration are Remember and Teach. Remember as if we ourselves had lived through the slavery in Egypt. Remember the suffering. Remember the redemption. Remember it well enough that you feel it in your bones and are passionate about it. Because only when you truly remember it can you grow from it and teach it to others, especially the next generation.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” (Voltaire and Spiderman) What you may not realize is that your suffering gives you power. Stop. Really think about that: Your suffering gives you power.
It’s a strong biblical principle. Our suffering makes us strong. (James 1 gives an example of this.) Suffering is an inevitable part of the human experience. Some of us are given this privilege more than others. There are always some who have suffered more than you and some who have suffered less. There are people who have experienced more than you and have not had it affect them as much as what you’ve been through has affected you. Many factors make that the case. There is really no point in using this as a topic of comparison. The point is that suffering has the potential to make you strong.
And with that strength comes responsibility. What I’m saying is that you have a responsibility to find out how God intends to use your suffering. For me, it’s to give a voice to those who have suffered in ways I’m familiar with and to educate others about the suffering that may have touched those in their lives. For you, it might be to reach out and help someone who is currently suffering. For others, it may be to pray for those who suffer. There are endless possibilities and it will be different for each one of us.
But in order to use your suffering to help others, in order to have any compassion at all, you have to remember … as if you were still going through it. The more clearly you remember it, the more you feel it, the more it brings you to your knees in pain … the more you will stay on your knees in prayer, the more compassion you will have, the more you will appreciate what God has done for you, and the more you will be able to see the way out for someone else and be able to encourage and patiently guide them.
The difference is that you have to be able to see and feel the pain in the context of forgiveness. You have to be able to see your own suffering without the lens of blame-casting. You have to be able to say, these are things that were done to me, but I don’t feel any malice or hard feelings toward those who did them. (In most cases, they weren’t done maliciously anyway, and that makes it easier; but even in the cases where they were, we can have compassion toward those who hurt us.)
This is what Kelly and Matt discover as they deal with her rapist in the Isaiah Cadre Series: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” The freedom that comes from that. It’s what Jesus did on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is what allows us to remember our suffering, without experiencing bitterness. And, odd as it sounds, it allows us to say, “Thank You, God, for allowing me to go through that.” (Nope, I’m not kidding.)
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
Believe it or not, your worship, your relationship with God, your ministry, and your life will be stronger, more vibrant, and more intimate because of what you’ve been through.
Isaiah Cadre Discussion/Journaling Questions
- Take an inventory of what you’ve suffered. Talk about it.
- How can you see evidence of God’s love and direction, protection and teaching in that time?
- How has that suffering benefited you?
- How has your suffering benefited others?
- Have you discovered yet what God wants to do with your suffering?
- What have you found helpful in your quest to refuse to wallow in your pain, but to rather find victory in it?
- When you think about your suffering, how does the enemy attack you? What are things you can do to bring those memories back under the control of the Holy Spirit?
“The devil flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God.” (Martin Luther)
Please pass this post on to others. You really don’t know who might need so badly to hear this message.